Inside Mari

Inside Mari

Inside Mari vol. 1 manga cover art featuring Mari and Isao
Inside Mari Vol. 1 Cover Art

Overview

Although I’ve been watching anime regularly for a couple years now, yesterday was my first experience with reading manga. Inside Mari is the manga I decided to start with as the summary seemed interesting enough, and at only 80 chapters it wasn’t a big commitment.

“But how could you watch that much anime and never be interested in reading manga until now?”

Good question. I had looked into manga in the past because I wanted to read ahead in some of the series I follow the anime for. And, since I used Crunchyroll for most of my anime, I figured I’d use them for manga too.

However, Crunchyroll never actually had any of the manga I was looking for, despite having the anime series for them. Their manga catalog is actually quite small, and many of the series they have only have the newest chapters, not everything since the beginning.

Finally, a few days ago now, I saw a manga on MAL, Sankarea, which I liked the cover art for and had a fairly good summary. Unfortunately, once again, I was unable to find this manga through my usual means. But all was not lost because while searching the catalog, I came across Inside Mari and decided to give it a try.

And now onto the actual review. Inside Mari is a manga about a high school student named Mari and a University student named Isao. The story begins on a night just like any other for Isao, which means he once again finds himself following Mari home from a convenience store at 9pm because he’s kind of a stalker.

Mari happens to notice she’s being followed this time and begins turning to face Isao when suddenly everything goes blank. When he wakes up, Isao is in Mari’s body.

While on the surface Inside Mari appears to be a fairly straightforward body-swap story, it takes a few twists and turns along the way, and then suddenly gets wrapped up as if the writer was told to finish the story or get it canceled.

I would also caution that this manga is for mature audiences which I didn’t realize myself until I was in too deep. I assumed that everything in Crunchyroll‘s manga selection would be fairly family friendly like everything in their anime selection.


Characters

The point of view we as the readers get is that of Isao inside Mari’s body. Isao is a University dropout who plays video games all day long. He always goes to a nearby convenience store around 9pm because he knows that Mari will also be there. Although he’s been doing this for roughly a year, he has never once spoken to Mari.

Mari is the other half of the protagonist, if you will. She’s a fairly popular high school girl who goes to the same convenience store every night around 9pm to buy candy. She lives with her mother, father, and younger brother and has a fairly typical school life.

The third and final character that matters is Yori. Yori is a girl in Mari’s class and is the only person to realize that Mari’s sudden change in personality isn’t caused by something normal. Throughout the story, Yori attempts to help Isao find where Mari went when he took over her body.

Spoilers

Although Inside Mari builds itself up to be a body-swapping story, it actually doesn’t involve body swapping at all. For most of the manga, however, the reader is deceived into thinking that Isao’s mind is now inside of Mari’s body.

In the afterword of the first volume the author even talks about how he wishes he could be a woman because as a man he is only able to see 50% of the world. This made me think that the story was going to end with Isao eventually accepting his new life as Mari, but that doesn’t happen.

Instead, Inside Mari is actually a story about mental illness in the form of a personality disorder. We learn that when Mari was younger, her name was Fumiko, but that it was changed to Mari by her mother after the death of her grandmother (the one who chose the name Fumiko). This appears to be the start of Mari’s psychological disorder.

We also learn that the real Isao never noticed Mari, and it was in fact Mari who had been stalking Isao because she envied his carefree lifestyle. The idea that Isao’s mind was put into Mari’s body was just Mari’s way of coping with her newly chosen identity as Isao. She couldn’t physically be him, so mentally becoming him is the next best thing.

In the end, Mari never comes back. Her psychological disorder caused her to lose her friends, academic future, and future in general.

But how do we know this was some sort of psychological disorder rather than Mari consciously choosing to become a new person? For one, she shows signs of being a stalker as well as attempting to steal the identity of another person.

There is also an episode in which Mari’s body becomes “empty” by which I mean there is no personality inside it. No Isao, no Mari, no Fumiko. During this time, she is basically in a vegetative state for maybe a week and it was caused due to her remembering her previous personas of Fumiko and Mari respectively. This is not something that we would typically attribute to someone who is mentally stable.

Conclusion

After finishing this manga, I scored it a 6/10, although I don’t have any other manga to compare it to. After thinking about the story for a day, I think I appreciate it more than I originally did, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to change my rating.

Even if I did end up liking the story, the ending seemed a bit abrupt. I think that 90 chapters, rather than 80, might have worked better for the ending of the story, but what do I know? It was only my first time reading manga after all.

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